In my last post, I shared the risks of leaving the millions of women behind in the current immigration debate. With over 4.1 million women of the 11.1 million undocumented, it was important to shed light on the gender-biased proposals by the Gang of 8. Today, we’re two weeks past the unveiling of the 844-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, and there is much to discuss. You can view the the bill here.
There have been heated debates that the bill is ‘good enough’. Some DC insiders believe that ‘perfect’ shouldn’t hinder things that are ‘good enough’. But good enough for whom? The bill is only ‘good enough’ for a few.
Sure, there are pieces that are promising - specifically for women. In proposing a pathway to citizenship, the Gang of 8 considered the hard-line approach favored by Republicans, that would require immigrants to show proof of employment for purposes of collecting back taxes. Thankfully, that proposition was not included in this bill. Instead, the legislation requires any undocumented immigrant to pay “any applicable federal tax liability” giving those in informal employment situations wiggle room. For women this is promising, as many of them work in cash-only or unregulated work environments, such as domestic work.
Despite the good, there is also the ugly. The legislation has provisions to reduce family backlogs over a ten-year period. To do this, the bill will allow an unlimited amount of visas to go to parents, children, and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents, pushing them through an accelerated green-card system. However, after 18 months, the sibling category would be eliminated.
This means U.S. citizens would no longer be able to petition for their siblings to immigrate to the U.S. Family reunifications would be limited to “immediate relatives” - parents, children (under the age of 30), and spouses - only. On top of that, the provisions do not recognize LGBT married couples under the ‘spouses’ category. Concerned with including sexual orientation, undocumented LGBT individuals are left in the shadows, essentially forcing LGBT families to live apart. ‘Merit-based visas’ would be an option for LGBT couples and the only option for siblings.
This specific visa program will offer 120,000 merit-based visas each year based on work skills - half to higher-skilled workers and half to lower-skilled workers. As policy analyst Irene Bueno shared at “Talakayan sa Embahada, “you win points for factors such as age, education, entrepreneurship, employment, English-language ability, family ties, and other criteria. But there are concerns that this point system will undermine family reunification in the long run.”
In addition, the legislation increases the amount of H1-B visas from 65,000 a year to 110,000 a year, and potentially to 180,000 a year depending on demand. I find it hard not to speculate that the Gang of 8 decided to limit the categories from family-visas to make room for more H1-B visas; that rather than focus on reuniting families, they were concerned about increasing our high-skilled worker population.
These are just a few of the pieces I’ve uncovered from the bill. What are some of the pieces you love? What are the pieces you hate? I’d like to read your comments.
For more articles on the immigration bill, here are some links for you.